Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lord Dunmore's "Little" War and the Roberts Family

Where the tip of Virginia meets Tennessee on the Clinch River is where John Roberts and his family were killed by the Native American Logan.

I have been considering having an ancestor, collateral though John Roberts was, being killed along with his family on September 24, 1774 by a man who has descended into history as a sympathetic historical figure. It's Shawnee/Mingo chief John Logan I mean. In my previous blog, HERE, I couldn't bring myself to discuss Logan, so only inserted a link to his Wikipedia page. Actions have consequences.  If some whites hadn't killed Logan's family, the John Roberts family would have lived longer.

It appears that John's brothers, William Roberts (our 5th great-grandfather), Henry and David, volunteered shortly after John Roberts' family was slain to fight the Indians in what became known as Lord Dunmore's War. HERE  
John Murray, 4th Lord Dunmore, last Colonial Governor of Virginia Colony, by Joshua Reynolds

They served alongside Daniel Boone in Captain Looney's company for 49 days. The culmination of the Virginia militias and hundreds of frontiersmen from the back country banding together to attempt to put an end to Native American depredations on land the colonists wanted to settle was the Battle of Point Pleasant. HERE This battle  has been called the most extensive and bitterly contested Indian battle in American history, with far-reaching results. At the time it occurred, it aroused world-wide interest; English, French and German newspapers published extensive articles descriptive of the battle. Some call it the actual opening battle of the American Revolution.

The Roberts brothers didn't make it to the battle, but were assigned to patrol the frontier. Their listed names, William, David and Henry, grouped together, are on the Fincastle, Virginia, militia list under Captain David Looney (sometimes as "Robertson," sometimes corrected to "Roberts") indicating they were paid for serving 49 days in the autumn of 1774 (which would explain why William Roberts waited until the following spring to settle his brother's estate in Fincastle County). It appears these men remained in the Clinch River area (near their homes) to build forts. Their families had taken shelter at Looney's Fort, on the present site of the Blountsville, Tennessee, Central High School, a few miles beneath the western tip of the Virginia state line.  Originally seven additional militia forts were to be constructed in 1774.  

"Capt. William Russell was to command four of the forts on the Lower Clinch River and Capt. Daniel Smith was to command three forts on the Upper Clinch River. These forts were to be erected by the local militia men supervised by Colonel William Christian who had been sent out to the frontier by Col. William Preston who was commanding officer of the Fincastle County Militia. The forts were generally named for the landowners where they were located and/or the military commanders. Many of them had multiple names as landowners and commanders changed." Most of these forts were erected in what is now Russell County, Virginia, so they weren't so very close to those few settlers in what became northeast Tennessee.

Present-day Russell County, Virginia

Present Sullivan County, Tennessee (Hawkins County to the left), the Roberts families having settled on the county lines.

Now I must tell you that in doing this latest research, I discovered that another William Roberts served with the Fincastle County militia, and he had a brother Cornelius (c.1746-1788), who also served, and was later killed and scalped by the Cherokee while hunting ginseng in the Black Mountains of Russell County, Virginia. (Ginseng was used for medicine - still hunted, it's now an endangered plant due to over-harvesting). In looking up this other Roberts family on, someone has listed a John Roberts, born in 1771, as this William's son (with no further information).  Is this our 4th great-grandfather and not the John Roberts a researcher claimed was born in 1784? The 1771 date is correct and the father's name is William (1740-1776), married Elizabeth Walling (1748-1847). But this family appears to have settled in what is now the Elk Creek section of Grayson County, Virginia, not Sullivan or Hawkins County (in what became Tennessee). Hawkins County was written in John Roberts' death information as the place he was born to William Roberts.  
Present-day Grayson County, Virginia

Those are the only hints, nothing about the young John Roberts' marriage or moving to Pulaski County, Kentucky, as our 4th great-grandfather did. Perhaps, though, they were all related to some degree. This goes to show how difficult it can be to separate out our ancestors with common names, especially when so many records have been destroyed in "burned" counties (by incidental fires and those set by the British during the American Revolution and by Federal troops during the American Civil War.

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